Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Continuing

One of the most powerful images in Bialik's "City of Slaughter" is that of the cohanim running to the rabbis in the wake of the terrible pogrom, asking whether their wives are still permitted to them.

This is what I was talking about in my last post about Lashon Harah. It wasn't specifically that I was bothered by this particular law. What triggered my rant was the general mindset of people that govern their life by a set of stringencies that in an effort to protect us from ourselves are taking away our humanity, or ability to LIVE. Why don't we just shutter ourselves away from this world so we can be sure we don't transgress any commandment. Let's not live at all. I don't find joy in the fact that this particular halacha,as Tobie mentioned, "has no level of legal enforcability(sic) and is, practically speaking, ignored except when it actually makes sense". This culture, with its narrowing spiral of ever constricting and constraining halachot is what created this Golus Yid mentality. I am not proposing abandoning halacha, and frankly I don't know how far back this started, but I know that this mindset was not always present. And in some ways, this is what the chalutzim and maskilim(like Bialik) were rebelling against. They were looking for normalcy, a chance to make their own decisions, an escape from this protection for their own good.

As I re-read this post, I think the connection between the opening paragraph and the main topic maybe somewhat unclear. I am not decrying the fact that there is a halachic question about the suitability of the spouses of the cohanim. My point is that in the face of such a horrible tragedy, the men aren't able to react to it on a human level, to deal with their wives and what they just lived through. Their reaction instead is to ask a shaila of their rabbis.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Fievel said...

Boy, do I hear you. Kol hakavod.

March 18, 2008 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

It’s poetic not literal. Bialik saw religion as resigned to Golus. That was symbolized in the poem with the Kohanim asking if their wives can stay with them. How do you account for the Golus mentality throughout the Diaspora and Israel from the NonFrum?

March 18, 2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Sorry, don't understand the question

March 18, 2008 9:20 PM  
Blogger Leora said...

Would it help you to see people as having different needs? Some people need all these little rules to make them safe. Others might like some rules, a little more loosely defined. And then there are those who pay no attention to rules. Can you just say "OK, they need that" but not apply it to yourself? Would you then not feel like you are "Jewish" enough?

March 19, 2008 9:03 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Leora, I am talking at a national, aggregate level. I am describing what is seen as the ideal for a Jewish person, from the rabbinic perspective.

March 19, 2008 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

"Rabban Gamliel said...
It’s poetic not literal. Bialik saw religion as resigned to Golus. That was symbolized in the poem with the Kohanim asking if their wives can stay with them. How do you account for the Golus mentality throughout the Diaspora and Israel from the NonFrum?

March 18, 2008 8:26 PM


e-kvetcher said...
Sorry, don't understand the question"

http://www.danielgordis.org/Site/Site_Dispatches.asp

March 19, 2008 3:17 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

RG,
From the Gordis article
"These Jewish men, their humanity too eroded by years of religious escapism and yeshiva study for them to see the broken women they should have loved as anything other than halakhic questions, aren't people anymore. Real people, Bialik suggests, simply don't stand by and watch their family members get raped and slaughtered and do nothing about it."

That is my point. For Bialik the solution is Zionism. I did not propose a solution in my post - just identified the symptom.

March 19, 2008 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

But Bialik was wrong. Zionism did not remove the Golus mentality. Israel is filled with it.

March 19, 2008 11:13 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

That just strengthens my point. Like I said, I am identifying the symptom.

March 20, 2008 5:43 AM  
Blogger rokhl said...

This is weird. I just heard this poem, in Hebrew and Yiddish, for the first time at a YIVO event. It's been on my mind since, especially the part you refer to.

I was discussing it with a good friend and she pointed out- it's a poem, not history. Bialik was making a point, and a connection, that was very much informed by his agenda as a member of the haskole and a Hebraist.

March 20, 2008 6:47 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Rokhl,

I agree that Bialik had an agenda, but the argument is a bit circular.

The pogrom in Kishinev WAS real, and a large extent, the movement to leave, to escape the horrors of Golus, to become masters of their own destiny was born of this feeling of "his is not good! we are not normal! we need to change!"

March 20, 2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger rokhl said...

I agree with you on the 'this is not good'. But I think the really important question lies with the 'we are not normal, we need to change.' When did outrage over violence against Jews become internalized anti-Semitism? And when did that become OK to Jews?? As you've probably seen from my blog, among the choices that Jews of that time and place had, it seems to me that Nationalism (Zionism) was the worst option for Jews in that it reinforced the idea that there WAS something abnormal about Jews and further, that it could be fixed by becoming more like everyone else (having their own nation and having their own means of violence.) The Jews of Kishinev who did end up in Israel also did violence to themselves by killing off their own culture (Yiddish culture.)

March 27, 2008 5:01 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>When did outrage over violence against Jews become internalized anti-Semitism?

I don't agree that coming to terms with your shortcomings as a culture equates to internalized anti-Semitism (if I understand you correctly). As much as I love Yiddish culture, there were many aspects of Jewish society in Europe that could have stood serious introspection and reform.

> As you've probably seen from my blog, among the choices that Jews of that time and place had, it seems to me that Nationalism (Zionism) was the worst option for Jews in that it reinforced the idea that there WAS something abnormal about Jews and further, that it could be fixed by becoming more like everyone else (having their own nation and having their own means of violence.) The Jews of Kishinev who did end up in Israel also did violence to themselves by killing off their own culture (Yiddish culture.)

I agree that in retrospect Zionism had many undesirable effects. Unfortunately that was the zeitgeist. Like all the other ideological fanatics in Europe, the fascists, and the bolsheviks, the Zionist "movement" went overboard in many ways. But if you had to choose between the kind of violence the Jews experienced in Golus and the "violence" against Yiddish culture, I think the former trumps the latter.

March 27, 2008 6:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home